Tag Archives: WWII

Discovering Warsaw’s History on Foot

In recent days, I managed to take in some free walking tours that took me around the city and discussed a variety of topics. With several tour companies offering similar services, you simply select the tours that best match your schedule. These tours have something for everyone whether you’re into World War II history, the Jewish experience, modern-day alternative Warsaw or a foodie trail.

Personally, I took the alternative Warsaw tour, Jewish tour and the World War II historical tour. My knowledge of history is seriously lacking, so these tours combined education with sightseeing. Being able to see firsthand what’s inside history books is an experience you can’t forget.

Many stops on the tours took in memorial sites and monuments raised in the name of the fallen. Etched in the pavement where a Jewish ghetto wall once stood are dates so that no one forgets what happened there. Parks in the middle of the city have raised hills of grass under which lies the rubble of fallen buildings. Reminders of the past stand stoically amidst the hustle and bustle of this modern city.

Yet it seems that despite all the hardship the people of this city and nation have endured in the last century, they continue to look forward. Houses of worship and pillars of education stand with open doors for people seeking wisdom. The educated are no longer persecuted. Thought leaders aren’t dragged from their homes and shipped away. People are free to pursue their interests. It’s an incredible thing that I’ve just taken for granted. It’s only when listening to the stories of the past that I really understand how lucky we are today.

After spending more than eight hours a day on foot discovering Warsaw, I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface. A second, in-depth visit is definitely warranted as I haven’t really been able to get out of the city or even experience what it’s like to live here as a local. To be honest, I haven’t even had time to taste the local delicacies or check out the nightlife. All I’ve had time for between tours is a quick bite at a café and an early night in so I can get up and do it all again in the morning. All too quickly, it’s time to move on to Krakow.


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Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum

When you travel to Japan, a visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum is hard to skip despite how emotionally difficult it is on you to go there. Adding to the awkwardness is the fact that I’m from Hawaii, the very place the Japanese attacked and in retaliation for which the U.S. bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Still, to avoid such a place is almost like denying the past.

After taking the train to Hiroshima, I checked in to my hostel and set out for Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The first thing I saw at the Peace Park was the Atomic Bomb Dome. This structure is the remains of an entertainment hall that took the brunt of the bomb’s force. It stands today as a reminder and memorial to everyone the a-bomb killed on August 6, 1945.

The A-bomb Dome has an eerie quality about it. It could be because so much of it is missing and the structure has obviously been devastated by the blast. Other, more superstitious people, might say it is the souls of the dead that probably haunt the place. When I was there, I was the only person in the area. However, it was quiet but not peaceful.

I continued toward the museum and passed the memorial centograph and peace flame. The centograph lists the names of all the people the atomic bomb killed. The flame is also to commemorate the dead and has been ablaze since 1964. It is a symbol of peace and will continue to burn until there are no nuclear bombs in the world.

When I finally arrived at the museum, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Most of the placards were in Japanese so I couldn’t read what was being described. On the surface, the museum seemed to cover a lot of things. There were displays about nuclear power, models of pre- and post-bomb Hiroshima, artifacts recovered after the bomb and pictures of victims. Everything was pretty intense and in your face, even though I obviously didn’t get the entire effect due to the language barrier. Many of the photos are gruesome and the artifacts are mangled pieces of metal. They even recovered the torn clothing of school children. All of this effectively argues against the possession and use of nuclear power as weapons against humanity.

However, the museum failed to discuss the role the Japanese played in World War II. I couldn’t find anything that even vaguely mentioned it. Of course, it might have been lost in translation or maybe it’s a topic for a different museum? In any case, I got the feeling that this museum was being particularly one-sided about the atrocities that took place.

Has anyone else visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and felt this way too? What are your impressions as a foreign visitor to the museum?

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